'Maps to the Stars' takes a tour of Hollywood's seedier side

Rating: ★★★☆☆

In a year when a story about actors, "Birdman," wins the Academy Award for Best Picture, movie goers may have grown tired of stories about actors, celebrity and fame. Starring recent Academy Award-winning actress Julianne Moore ("Still Alice"), filmmaker David Cronenberg brings a ultra-dramatic story, written by screenwriter Bruce Wagner to theaters in "Maps to the Stars."

"Maps of the Stars," tells that story of a young woman Agatha (Mia Wasikowska), disfigured by a fire long ago that embarks upon a journey to Hollywood. After asking for a map to the stars homes from a young limo driver (Robert Pattinson) she hired to drive her around, she directs him to a vacant lot and it comes clear quite quickly that this young woman had been in Hollywood at an earlier time. She gets a job to be the personal assistant to a extremely self-absorbed, aging actress Havana (Julianne Moore). Agatha's story eventually connects to separate story told about a thirteen-year-old actor that has already tired of his career and has his mother dragging him back to work. Ultimately, it is clear why Agatha was drawn back to land of celebrity and fame.

During the first half of "Maps to the Stars" I had trouble quantifying my reactions to the film. Many of the over the top scenes of Hollywood's madness - were simply too much for me. Very serious Oedipal themes have a tinge of coming off as salacious and even manipulative to the audience. But, I could not dismiss that I was glued to the screen, didn't know what turns the story would take and ultimately I was entertained. As the plot turns added up and the various themes started to intersect, I understood their purpose. The ultimate theme at play, which is the "sins of the father," made for quite a satisfying conclusion.

"Maps of the Stars" borders on parody of Hollywood and all the sins that are often applied to the famous that inhabit this small region in southern California. "Maps to the Stars" is a huge improvement after Cronenberg's vapid attempt at filmmaking 2012's film "Cosmopolis." "Maps to the Stars" will not be for everyone, but for my sake I enjoyed the tour.

"Maps to the Stars" is rated R for strong disturbing violence and sexual content, graphic nudity, language and some drug material and has a run time of one hour and 51 minutes.


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